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Dinosaur diggers bring mobile lab, new techniques to Eastern Montana
Date:6/6/2008

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Scientists who dig dinosaurs in Eastern Montana will now be able to chemically analyze fossils the same day they're excavated and before degrading begins.

Paleontologists from Montana State University, North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences recently bought and renovated a mobile laboratory that Dan Redding of Rudyard drove to Eastern Montana for the summer.

The lab is the first of its kind and a dream come true, said Mary Higby Schweitzer, a North Carolina paleontologist who obtained the lab with Jack Horner, who is the Ameya Preserve curator of paleontology at MSU's Museum of the Rockies. Schweitzer is a paleontologist at NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. She is also a Montana native and former graduate student of Horner's.

"This will be the first ever analytical molecular paleontology lab dedicated to doing analysis of this type on site," Schweitzer said.

Horner added, "The sooner we can analyze the specimens, the better."

Schweitzer's hypothesis is that fossils can stay deep in the ground for 68 million years and because they are in equilibrium with their sandstone environment, they can remain in nearly their original state. It was a deep sandstone environment that preserved the soft tissue Schweitzer discovered a few years ago in the specimen "MOR 1125," dubbed B. Rex, found near Jordan, Mont. Schweitzer also found tissue that showed the Tyrannosaurus rex was an egg-laying female.

Degradation began, however, as soon as field crews removed fossils from the ground and disrupted their equilibrium, Schweitzer said. Changing conditions and exposure to microbes all affected the fossils' condition.

To get a jump on the process and document it as it progresses, NC State provided funding for Schweitzer to purchase the lab and deliver it to MSU. The Museum of the Rockies then paid to adapt the lab for paleontology res
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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